Nancy Jamar of Gilding the Lily has always been a creative personality. She spent most of her career working as a professional graphic designer before pivoting to own and operate her brick-and-mortar vintage design shop, Gilding the Lily, in Fullerton.
Jamar shared her insight with Metrolink about what it has been like to cultivate and operate her own small business amidst the growing competition of online shopping – especially with the recent dearth of in-person events and festivals for which her most loyal customers would traditionally be visiting to source costume design items.
Located in the historic district of Fullerton in a 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival style hotel known as the Villa del Sol, this shop is a brick-and-mortar business for vintage jewelry supplies, and design items such as ribbon, trims, lace, glitter, and more. And best of all, it’s only two blocks from the Fullerton Metrolink Station.
“I’m a graphic designer by trade, a writer, and an editor and business owner,” said Jamar when asked to describe herself and her background.
A Wearer of Many Hats
“I was at a flea market, and I bought a couple of vintage hats from a vendor who was kind of egging me on to buy more,” she recalls on the origins of her trade. “I said I only wanted the vintage ones – and he told me he had a warehouse in Long Beach with 1,000 vintage hats!”
The rest is history.
“Off I went, with my friend who also bought some hats – but I ended up buying hundreds and hundreds of hats and just wanting to refurbish them,” she said. “I searched for the correct materials to use to refurbish these hats and started landing on inventories of ribbons, flowers, feathers.”
This was all while she was still working another full-time job in graphic design.
“I was still working full-time. One Saturday I was sitting in my 10 x 20 space looking at all this stuff and thinking, ‘I need to actively turn this into a business.’
Jamar never looked back and started by renting extra storage space to support her business for two years before launching full-time at her current location.
Minne Mouse’s Russian Vogue Debut
In addition to the brick-and-mortar shop, Jamar does run an online store via Etsy, but prefers the in-person experience of working with customers.
“I have a large wholesale base and I work with a lot of designers – they are regular customers to me,” she said. “I design and manufacture a lot of components, I do casting with different metals, plating – it’s been a real learning experience for me, but it’s helped me develop items that no one else has. When you find something wonderful and unique to add to the collection, it’s great for business, too.”
The best part of her job, she says, is looking for her next unique discovery.
“My favorite part of this business is the thrill of the hunt,” she said. “I’m always on the hunt, and I’ve had some fun finds. I work with several warehouses back east; I work with people across the world to France and Japan.”
“When you find something wonderful and unique to add to the collection, it’s great for business, too.”
She serves all types of customers from costumers to professional designers, and those who are just trying to create a fun outfit to wear to the Renaissance fair.
“My shop is a resource for all sorts of makers,” she said. “We serve costume-makers, ballet companies, opera companies, we’ve even worked with Disney three times as well as Warner Brothers. It’s just fun people who love to make things with their hands.”
She reminisces about her first big break with Disney, with designers who were creating a folkloric dress for Minny Mouse to wear in a print edition of Russian Vogue.
“The first project I did with Disney was with two themed costume designers,” she said. “I ended up giving them what they needed to look at for the project they were working on… it was fascinating. Now, I have a copy of the magazine with Minny in her dress.”
Jamar’s business isn’t just a business – or even a “lifestyle,” – it’s a community.
“I do a lot of sourcing for my clients which means if someone is looking for something, I use my connections around the world to find it,” she said. “There are new things in here every week – stuff arriving all the time – so there’s always something new to look at.”
All are welcome to browse at their heart’s desire – but beware that it is highly unusual to leave Gilding the Lily empty-handed
When SoCal Explorers take the train to Gilding the Lily and show their loyalty card or same day Metrolink ticket, they’ll receive 10% off or $20 off their purchase of $100.